WALLA WALLA - If the Walla Walla Sweets reach the West Coast League playoffs, they may look back at their 4-3 triumph over the Kelowna Falcons on Saturday night at Borleske Stadium as a game that helped them achieve that goal.
Andrew Mendenhall's two-run double capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning as Walla Walla claimed its seventh win in its last 10 games.
"That's the reason he's hitting in the three-hole," Walla Walla manager J.C. Biagi said. "He's as productive as anybody. He's as good as they come in this league."
Saturday's come-from-behind victory - in which the Sweets trailed 3-0 after four-and-a-half innings of play - pulled Walla Walla into a second-place tie with Bellingham in the WCL East Division standings. The Bells lost at home to East-leading Wenatchee, 3-2, on Saturday.
Kelowna scored all of its runs in the fifth inning on four base hits. Andrew Firth and Nick Colwell drove in runs with singles, and Keach Ballard brought in the last Falcons' run on a 4-unassisted fielder's choice.
Kelani Brackenridge produced Walla Walla's first run of the game against Kelowna starter Brandon Marris on a sacrifice fly to center field in the last half of the fifth.
Kevin Hawk led off the Sweets' eighth inning with a ground ball to third that Firth mishandled for an error. Brackenridge moved Hawk to second with an infield single.
Alex Stanford advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt.
Scott Gottschling followed with a shallow fly ball to center that was dropped by a charging Falcons' center fielder Victor Rasor-Thompson. The miscue allowed Hawk to score.
Marris was lifted for reliever Ryan Paterson. Mendenhall hammered Paterson's second pitch to the base of the left-field wall for what proved to be the game-winning hit.
Relief pitcher Simon Anderson, the last of four Walla Walla hurlers used on the night, came on in the ninth inning. He retired Kyle Pearson on a grounder to second, then walked Ben Swinford before striking out Rasor-Thompson and Firth to end the game.
"I'm proud of our guys - hanging in like that," Biagi said. "It took us a while to get going offensively."
Sweets' starter Tim Culligan possessed a one-hit shutout prior to the fifth inning. He retired the Falcons 1-2-3 in the sixth.
Bullpen throwers Tyler Billen (seventh inning) and Derek Peterson (eighth) allowed just one hit combined. Billen gave up a single to Rasor-Thompson leading off inning seven.
"Culligan set the tone and pace for us," Biagi said. "We'll take ‘em (wins) any way we can get them.
"We're still excited to come to the yard every day," Biagi said. "That's a positive thing this time of year."
Game two of the three-game series is tonight at 6:05.
Sweets 4, Kelowna 3
Kelowna 000 030 000 - 3 6 2
Sweets 000 010 03x - 4 4 0
Marris, Paterson (8) and Norris-Jones. Culligan, Billen (7), Peterson (8), Anderson (9) and Hawk.
HR - none.
Hits - Kelowna: Rasor-Thompson 2, Ballard, Swinford, Firth, Colwell. Sweets: Wentz, Hawk, Brackenridge, Mendenhall.
Attend. - 1,459